After creating the National Father & Son Team Classic and running it for 20 years on the Grand Strand through his Southern Dunes Inc. golf management and marketing company, former area golf professional Robert Harper is relinquishing control of the tournament.
Harper moved to Summerville earlier this year to become the pastor there at Knightsville United Methodist Church, and three partners in East Coast Golf Management have created a new company called East Coast Golf Events that has purchased the tournament.
East Coast Golf Management president Mike Buccerone, vice president Chuck Hutchinson and partner Rob Mosser, the general manager at Wachesaw Plantation East, are partners in East Coast Golf Events.
Next year’s event will be held July 18-21 and Buccerone said he hopes to immediately bring the tournament’s participation numbers back over 900.
“With Robert doing his deal in Charleston we felt it was a good opportunity for us to get involved and keep the event going and grow it,” Buccerone said. “We’re pretty jacked up about it actually. The idea is to try to grow it and bring it back to what it was.”
The tournament peaked on its 10th anniversary with 808 teams and 1,616 players competing on 14 golf courses. This year’s event featured approximately 650 players from 42 states and five foreign countries.
“These guys can build it back up. They’ve got the energy and their finger on the pulse of the golf community,” said Harper, who had recently been a pastor at the Antioch and New El Bethel Methodist churches in Conway in recent years and will soon begin his seminary education.
East Coast Golf Events has hired the new company Golf Tourism Solutions, which features the staff of marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, to handle the tournament administration, marketing, etc. The parties have been meeting once a week to revamp and rejuvenate the event.
East Coast Golf Management operates a handful of courses on the Strand and has about 20 area courses in a marketing cooperative, so a lot of those are likely to be incorporated into the event, as are Legends Golf Resort and some of Founders Group International’s 22 courses, Buccerone said.
The event was expanded to become Family Golf Week three years ago when the 36-hole Father & Daughter Team Classic and Mother & Daughter Team Classic were added to the 54-hole Father-Son event.
Those events featured just a combined 16 teams this year and will be consolidated into the Parent & Child Team Classic, which will also be 54 holes.
“I did it for 20 years. I think it was a great event, it was great for the community,” Harper said. “I think the bottom line is the players got a great value and I think that’s why they keep coming back to play.
“With me leaving the area and getting out of the golf business it was best to give it up, and Mike knows exactly what to do to take it to the next level. With all the golf courses they have and connections he has in the golf industry it’s a perfect fit for me to hand it over to him. The transition made sense to move Mike into the picture.”
Harper came to Myrtle Beach to open Wild Wing Plantation in 1991 and Buccerone was among his early hires out of Methodist College.
Early registration begins next Monday. Legends Resort will be the host facility, which will include hosting registration and a skills challenge sponsored by Cleveland and Srixon.
The cost of $995 per team includes a $150 gift card per player that can be used for practice rounds, food, etc., at any of the participating courses, and a gift bag will include a shirt, hat, dozen Srixon balls, bag tag and pair of 2Undr underwear.
The tournament has had a charitable component since its inception, with Big Brothers and Big Sisters being the initial beneficiaries, the creation and support of The First Tee of Myrtle Beach becoming a priority, and military-related charities being the focus in recent years.
Four charities identified for this year’s event are The First Tee of the Coastal Carolinas, Veterans Golf Association, S.C. Junior Golf Foundation and Gene’s Dream Foundation, which has a focus on junior golf. More information can be found at familygolfweek.com.
The tournament honors a Father of the Year each event, and Harper will be this year’s honoree. He’s a father of two daughters.
“Maybe I’ll get my daughter Maggie (age 22) and come back and play in the event,” Harper said.
Long drive on move
The Amateur Long Drive World Championship will be returning to the Grand Strand for a second time in 2018, and it is changing venues.
The second event will be held next August at Barefoot Golf Resort’s expansive driving range, which is lighted and will allow for the event finals to be held at night.
“There’s just something about long drive under the lights,” said event co-creator Jeff Gilder.
The inaugural event was held on Aug. 25-26 at Legends Golf Resort, and the agreement to move it to Barefoot is expected to be finalized on Tuesday.
The second annual event is scheduled for the third full week of August – likely Aug. 23-25 or 24-25 – leading into the week of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship, and it will likely end on the weekend.
Depending on the number of competitors, it could remain a two-day event or expand to three days.
There will be Open, Veteran and Para divisions, with flights within those for men, women, senior men, senior women, super senior men, super senior women and junior. The Veteran division is being developed through a partnership with the Veteran Golfers Association, which holds tournaments for veterans.
“We’re excited to host it. I think having the lights and doing this at night will be great,” Barefoot Resort general manager Dave Genevro said. “With the different divisions, I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase the veterans … the awareness it will bring to the community and what these guys have done for us and what they can do.”
Last year’s event featured more than 100 competitors, and co-creator Jason Dores believes that number could double or triple, spurred by publicity from the inaugural event and planned qualifiers during some Golfweek Amateur Tour events at chapters around the country.
Dores is a director of the Myrtle Beach-Wilmington chapter of the Golfweek Amateur Tour and Golfweek Senior Amateur Tour.
Gilder is a founder of the iNetGolf web development and digital marketing company, The Golf Director vacation company, and Myrtle Beach Golf Channel, which features Grand Strand-related online golf programming and content.
This year’s long drive event was paired with The ParaLong Drive Cup, which Dean Jarvis of Maryville, Tenn., created in 2013 and continues to operate.
Gilder said it’s unclear if Jarvis will include his event in 2018, though he said organizers would welcome his participation.
“We’re still wide open to having Dean and his ParaLong Drive Cup. If it works for him we definitely want to have him,” Gilder said. “I think having a para division is important, I want to continue that. And I’m really excited about partnering with the VGA.
“… The thing I like about it is some of those guys can’t play 18 holes and be competitive, but they can do this and be competitive.”
Having the finals and possibly some of the late final qualifying after dark will improve conditions for spectators in the summer heat.
Putter’s Pub near the teeing area will be able to provide food and drinks for competitors and spectators, and the adjacent building that formerly housed the Callaway Performance Center can be used for registration and interviews.
“It’s a great setup for the event,” Dores said. “I think the event can really grow. There are condos at Barefoot Resort for housing and there’s all the entertainment at Barefoot Landing.”
This year’s finals received an hour of local television coverage on WWMB-CW 21, and Dores again expects local television coverage, and possibly the addition of regional or national TV coverage in addition to live streaming on the Internet.
Gilder said he’s working on new sponsorships and expects to have entry fees between $50 and $75. More information can be found at Amateurlongdrive.com.
USGA festivities begin
The best female golfers on the planet will be within a couple hours of Myrtle Beach in 19 months to play for perhaps the most prestigious title in women’s golf, the 2019 U.S. Open at the Country Club of Charleston from May 30-June 2.
The USGA will unveil the 74th U.S. Women’s Open logo in front of Waterfront Park’s iconic Pineapple Fountain in Charleston at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open will be the 18th United States Golf Association championship in South Carolina. Most recently, the Palmetto State hosted the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, won by former Furman University teammates Alice Chen and Taylor Totland.
The Dunes Club also hosted the only other U.S. Women’s Open held in South Carolina, and Murle Lindstrom won in 1962.